The announcement of the winning films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival left me as ever with the feeling that an opportunity had been missed. There was no sense of excitement about the event. Prizes went to delicate two-handers filmed in single rooms, or wry Scottish comedies. Where was the thrill of cinema, the transgressive, the sheer lunacy?
Fortunately, those of us who have been to the Festival know that the big premieres at the Palais only tell a small fraction of the whole story, and the underbelly of the Festival is ripe with oddities.
In the first of our exclusive Cannes reports for Excuses And Half Truths, Stuart Wright shows us his picks for the films that will be lighting up the Croisette this time next year.
You expect the sun to shine in the South Of France. I left sunny ol’ England behind and was greeted in Nice Airport by more of the same glorious weather. It wasn’t to last. By the second day the rain began and seemingly didn’t stop for five days straight.
Once you accept the daily reality of shoe dyed, rain-soaked socks by 11:30am, you begin to adapt and toughen up in Cannes. Or you find cover and haul ass around the Marché du Film, the film market in the basement of the Palais where nearly 4,000 films aim to get a sniff of the millions of dollars that are itching to be spent.
Officially: “the Marché du Film is the most important event in the industry.” To the unofficial observer/film geek it is a Willy Wonka world of movie dreams. Everyone who aspires to make a film must visit this place at least once to begin to understand how business people commoditise creativity for the mass markets they want to reach. It’s a vibrant place where expense accounts are stretched to their limits in order to find niche and mainstream audiences alike.
Here’s a few highlights of what was being promoted at Cannes 2012:
I’m no semiotics expert, but even I found myself trying to interpret this dazzling arrangement of: ZombeX, The Tortured and Princess Diana: A Celebration. I like to think they are subliminally selling us the truth about the ‘tortured’ royal and the hope she will rise from the grave. No? Just me, then.
Lesbian Vampire Warriors is interesting because if you look close enough you’ll see another poster poking out below. The hidden original was a proof of concept print that no one covered up for three days. It proudly read: “Strapline To Go Here” before the real artwork took centre stage.
Dead Walking is genius just for swapping the order of words for a known TV show title around.
Atlantic Rim was my favourite, to the point strapline: Aliens invade! Mankind fights back! Any sci-fi genre buyer doesn’t really need to know anymore about that movie to make a purchase.
Hypercane. This title is not a made up word. It is the name of a hypothetical extreme hurricane that according to scientists requires the oceans to rise in temperature to circa 50C (more that ever recorded) as a result of say a massive asteroid shower. High concept meets science head on for some CGI mayhem I imagine.
The best of the best was early sales art featuring Nicolas Cage ripped like a manga cartoon hero for Marble City. Not remotely near production, nevermind selling, Todd Brown on twitchfilm.com referred to it as: “…the greatest, most ridiculous poster ever made for a movie which does not yet exist.”
In the Marché du Film, genre is king. Horror and action thrillers dominate the landscape. Remember that as you speculatively write a twee melodrama set in a remote Suffolk village. There’s an important lesson to be learnt in the depths of the basement of the Palais in Cannes: Who will buy my film? And more importantly, how do I get people interested and who will sell it?
For Excuses And Half Truths I’m Stuart Wright, and it’s time for an ice-cream.